western swing

The Lucky Stars

The Lucky Stars - Go to Town
The Lucky Stars – Go to Town

The Lucky Stars – Go to Town

Fate Records 5004
Go to Town – $100 and no sense – Whose hat Is That – Rye Whiskey Baby – Feelin’ It – The Way You Walk – Glycerin Tears – Right By Me – Watch Your Step – Lie, Lie Again – If I Were Me – I’ll Go the Extra Mile – The Last Call Blues

To my great shame I recently realised that I still hadn’t reviewed the Lucky Stars’ third album “Go to Town” and felt a bit guilty about that. But the feeling almost vanished when I remembered that these guys made us wait nearly eight years between this one and “Stay out Late” their previous output. It’s a bit too long don’t you think? Especially if you, like me, consider that the Lucky Stars are, with Dave Stuckey’s Rhythm Gang, the best western swing band since the golden age of the genre (and if you thought “What about Asleep at the Wheel?”, please leave the room quietly.)
The Lucky Stars are a hot combination of influences and talents. Leading the band is Sage Guyton, the crooner with the moustache, the man with the smooth voice, strong melodies and clever lyrics. All songs here are originals from his pen and if sometimes you hear a bit of Wills here (one time Billy Jack, the other Bob), a little Tex Williams there and the spirit of Merle Travis, they all have that unmistakable Lucky Stars signature. It’s in the songs, but it’s also due to the band. With a hot rhythm section like Wally Hersom (bass) and Dave Stuckey (drums and lead vocals on The Way You Walk) and Jeremy Wakefield, Rusty Blake and Dan Wenstein trading solos respectively on steel, guitar, fiddle and cornet you can’t go wrong. Add a couple of guest on piano and accordion, and you’re there Pierre,

A Lucky Stars album is like a party. It opens with “Go to Town” a joyful and exuberant invitation to the fest and ends with “Last Call Blues” when the bar closes its doors . In between, there was room for dance, laugh, tears, swing and, yes, a lot of alcohol.
See ya next decade for the next album guys!


The Lucky Stars - Stay out late with
The Lucky Stars – Stay out late with

The Lucky Stars – Stay out late with

Fate LP5002
Rarin’ To Go – Real Good Lookin’ – Teacher’s Pet – Am I In Love (Or Am I Just Hungover)? – Out Of Your Mind – The Tattooed Lady – (Mama’s Got) The Rundown Daddy Blues – Used To Be – My Poor Old Haunted Heart – Don’t Count Your Chickens – One Man’s Blues – One Of These Days – Stay Out Late
This new album was highly anticipated. Imagine Sage Guyton’s hability to sing and write songs combined with Jeremy Wakefield on steel and the support of Dave Stuckey on drums, Wally Hersom on bass and Russ Blake on guitar. Well, if you’re into western swing this is the combination that would make your heart flip?!
And it does. The album opens with «Rarin’ to Go», the kind of song that takes no prisoner and you know you’re not just listenin’ to another album but a recording that could stand proudly near Hank Penny, Tex Williams or Bob Wills in your collection. This band swings, I mean REALLY swings, they don’t play country songs with steel on a rock beat, you see what I mean? Next song «Real Good Lookin’» gives us the occasion to salute the work done by guest musician Mike Bolger on trumpet, accordion and piano on this album. While we’re talking about the musicians I must praise the quality of guitar player Russ Blake and his jazzy licks. A few month ago this guy was totally unknown to me (shame on me) and in the same time I got 3 fantastic records where his talent shines : this one, Jeremy Wakefield’s Steel Guitar Caviar and the latest Janet Klein. All this album is a proof that Sage Guyton is not only a fantastic singer but a genius in term of writing songs. Of course you can expect clever lyrics (Teacher’s pet, Mama’s got the rundown dady blues to name but two) but Sage is more than a guy who writes funny tunes. Just listen to «Out of your mind» and «My poor old haunted heart» (and if you don’t cry on these one, you’re not realy human). JW sings the two covers of this album «the Tattooed lady» and Cindy Walker’s «Don’t count your chicken» and the records ends on the instrumental «Stay out late» that could have been recorded by the Western Caravan. But enough said, this record is an absolute must! I just hope we won’t have to wait 5 years to hear the next one.


The Lucky Stars – The Lucky Stars

Bucket-Lid BL 502 [1996]
Look Wath The Cat Dragged In – No More Nothin’ – Do Me A Favor (Tell Me A Lie) – Anything But You

Dave Stuckey produced and released on his label this EP, and Deke Dickerson, Wally Hersom, and Tim Maag recorded it.
When the band recorded it, the line-up was Sage Guyton on vocals, Brent Harding on double-bass, Jeremy Wakefield on steel guitar, Chris “Whitey” Anderson on accordion and piano, Tim Maag on drums, and James Gilliam on lead guitar.
The opener is a hot western swing tune with an infectious groove embellished with Spike Jones effect. Zeb Turner’s No More Nothin’ is more swingin’ than the original, with Guyton singing it with his unmistakable laid back style. Do Me A Favor is more on the hillbilly side, featuring some great crooning and steel guitar. Anything But You with its accordion is a rompin’ Western Swing tune reminiscent of Pee Wee King.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight!

Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight! – From the Vaults of Decca and Coral Records

Gonna shake this shack tonight

Bear Family BCD17602 [2020]
Jimmy Atkins & His Pinetoppers – I’m A Ding Dong Daddy (From Dumas) / T. Texas Tyler – Hot Rod Rag / Tabby West – Chat Chat Chattanooga / Lonnie Glosson – Pan American Boogie / Tex Williams – Big Bear Boogie / Autry Inman – Happy Go Lucky / Grandpa Jones – Eight More Miles To Louisville / Roy Duke – I Mean I’m Mean / Hank Penny – Bloodshot Eyes / Tabby West – Texas Millionaire / Hardrock Gunter / Texas Bill Strength – Paper Boy Boogie / Gene Stewart – Empty Seat In The Bar Room Booth / Rusty Keefer – I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail / Tex Williams – Rancho Boogie / Jimmie Davis – Cherokee Boogie (Eh-Oh-Aleena) / Tommy Sosebee – All Night Boogie / Kenny Roberts – I’m Looking For The Bully Of The Town / Hardrock Gunter – Honky Tonk Baby / Chuck Murphy – Blue Ribbon Boogie / Hank Garland – Guitar Shuffle / Tabby West – Inchin’ Up / Grady Martin – Long John Boogie / Tommy Sosebee – The Barber Shop Boogie / Hardrock Gunter – You Played On My Piano / Jimmy Atkins & His Pinetoppers – Juke Joint Johnny / Tabby West – Pretty Little Dedon / Arlie Duff – Courtin’ In The Rain / Wayne Raney – 40th And Plum / Roberta Lee & Hardrock Gunter – Sixty Minute Man

Jimmy Atkins cut a superb double-sider for Coral. Without surprise, Ding Dong Daddy is a hot western swing while Juke Joint Johnny is an excellent hillbilly boogie with searing solos, including twin guitars.
Tabby West is a very versatile singer. As said in the liner, her voice could appeal to both rural and urban audiences. Despite a bunch of excellent recordings, she never made it big. Pretty Little Dedon has a bit of a Cajun flair, Texas Millionaire is pure hillbilly with fiddle and also features a hot guitar solo by Hank Garland, while Chat Chat Chattanooga is a swinging country bopper that showcases her clear diction. Inchin’ Up is more average, but the guitar break from Chet Atkins is worth mentioning.
The Delmore Brothers’ Pan American Boogie sounds like the epitome of the Hillbily Boogie genre. Lonnie Glosson’s version, on which the Delmore Brothers and Wayne Raney back him, doesn’t differ much from the original.
Tex Williams is, with Jimmie Davis, probably one of the best-known figures on this compilation and needs no introduction. Big Bear Boogie is a pleasant though dispensable novelty tune. The best being the scorching country boogie instrumental Rancho Boogie, featuring accordion, twin fiddles, steel-guitar, and piano. You’ll also find Wayne Raney on this compilation performing an excellent Hillbilly number.
At the exact opposite of Williams’ laid-back croon are Autry Inman and his nasal voice. His Happy Go Lucky is a superb country bopper.
Grandpa Jones was neither a grandpa nor a genuine hillbilly. It doesn’t prevent his Eight More Miles to Louisville to be a joyful and fast hillbilly tune.
Roy Duke’s I Mean I’m Mean is one of the highlights of this compilation. His vocal sounds like Ernest Tubb singing the blues while the backing is closer to Rockabilly as it can get, thanks to Hank Garland on guitar.
Talking about highlights, you’ll find nothing less than four Hardrock Gunter’s songs, including Sixty Minute Man in duet with Roberta Lee. In case you wouldn’t know him, Gunter played a brand of Country Boogie, influenced by Western Swing, especially by his idol Hank Penny (who is present here with his classic Bloodshot Eyes.)
Not much to say about Texas Bill Strength, except that the song is good, his voice is good, and the playing is equally good!
Gene Stewart was the brother of Redd Stewart of Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys, for which he also played bass. Not sure if the Golden West Cowboys back him on Empty Seat In The Bar Room Booth, but the song is a hot swinging country boogie.
Rusty Keefer’s name might right a bell to Bill Haley’s fans. He wrote or co-wrote songs like The Walking Beat, R.O.C.K, or Rockin’ Through The Rye. I’m Just Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail falls halfway between Bluegrass and electric Honky Tonk.
Tommy Sosebee’s All Night Boogie, reminiscent of Oakie Boogie, is just average, while The Barber Shop Boogie seems more inspired by Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy.
If you’re looking for some uptempo hillbilly, I’m Looking For The Bully Of The Town by Kenny Roberts is what you need. Blue Ribbon Boogie is a solid boogie-woogie performed by Chuck Murphy and his piano.
Two great guitar player, Hank Garland and Grady Martin have their solo spots. Guitar Shuffle is an excuse to showcase Garland’s prowess on guitar (and it works), whereas Grady Martin’s Long John Boogie is more sophisticated, even pop-tinged, and features a saxophone.
Courtin In the Rain is a mostly spoken hillbilly by Arlie Duff in the rural comic tradition.
All in all, despite one or two less inspired tunes, you have a solid slab of Hillbilly and Country Boogie, with hints of Western Swing. Don’t miss it.

Available here

Fred ‘Virgil’ Turgis


Lynette Morgan And The Blackwater Valley Boys

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Lynette MorganLynette Morgan
And The
Blackwater
Valley Boys
Step Back Brother

Dog House Records [2016]
Roadside Diner – Wolf Talk – Let’s Stay Together – Yodel Song – Step Back Brother – Avalon – Dear Mother – Were Gonna Rock – Portobello Fellow

Since the Tennessee Rhythm Riders appeared on the rockin’ scene, we all know that Lynette Morgan is one talented lady when it comes to sing Hillbilly music.
Her latest album, recorded by Pat reyford at Sugar Ray’s vintage studio, with Willy Briggs on steel guitar, Gary Boller on double bass and Chris Wilkinson on guitar and drums (being a man of many talents he’s also in charge of the beautiful graphic design) definitely proves it.

Step Back Brothers” is, with Charlie Thompson’s Foothill Sessions and the Doel Brothers’ recent releases, one of the very best Hillbilly bop/western swing  influenced album to come from Great Britain.

It features two covers – Avalon, the old jazz standard also covered by Milton Brown and the Light Crust Doughboys, and Jimmy Newman/Rusty and Doug’s Let’s Stay Together – and seven originals penned by Briggs (Roadside Dinner), Briggs and Boller (Portobello Fellow also sung by Boller) and Morgan (the remaining five.)
As I said, this is super fine Hillbilly bop with plenty of Maddox Brothers and Rose influences but also shades of Johnny Horton (Wolf Talk), early western swing reminiscent of Patsy Montana’s band the Sweet Violet Boys (reinforced by the presence of a clarinet on three tunes), a waltz (the touching Dear Mother) and a bit of yodel madness (who doesn’t like some yodel ?)

Do not miss this perfect album and grab a copy while you can!

 

Lynette Morgan
Lynette Morgan © RK Studio

 

BR5-49

BR5-49 - One Long Saturday Night plus
BR5-49 – One Long Saturday Night plus

BR5-49 – One Long Saturday Night, plus

Bear Family BCD 17347
Even If It’s Wrong – Long Gone Lonesome Blues – Heartaches By The Number – Bettie Bettie – Right Or Wrong – Hometown Boogie – Honky Tonk Song – Go Boy Go – Lonesome 7-7203 – My Name Is Mud – I Ain’t Never – Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts) – Big Mouth Blues – Cherokee Boogie – Ole Slewfoot – Crazy Arms – Gone, Gone, Gone – One Long Saturday Night – Take Me Back To Tulsa – Hillbilly Tramp – Settin’ The Woods On Fire – Knoxville Girl – Sweet Georgia Brown

BR5-49 came like a breath of fresh air in the musical landscape of Nashville. Sure they weren’t the first to play traditionnal country, others played it on a smaller level, but they managed to get signed on a major lbel and for a while this music was at the place it deserved in the country music industry.
But though I like their songs and style a lot, I always thought that their studio albums sounded a little bit too clean and would have been better with a little more grit. Just imagine how they would have sounded had they been recorded by Wally Hersom at his Wallyphonic studio.
On this live album, recorded in Germany (and four bonus tracks recorded in Japan) in 1996, they show that the stage whether it’s a honky tonk in Dallas or a German TV show was the place where they belonged.
With no pression but the sheer joy of playing for an audience, the band felt free to play whatever they wanted from western swing (Bob Wills’ Right Or Wrong and Take Me Back To Tulsa) to 60’s country rock (Graham Parson’s Big Mouth Blues) with a solid dose of classic Honky Tonk and Rockabilly in between. This is fun from start to finish. Both Mead and Bennett are mighty fine singers and their harmonies are superb (without mentionning their guitar skills), Don Herron is a wizard with anything that has strings while Wilson and McDowell provide the beat with a subtility that too often lacks in modern country. In the end “One long Saturday Night” could possibly be the band’s best album (and as usual with Bear family it comes with a thick booklet including many pictures and liner notes by Chuck Mead).
And for those who think that the experience can’t be complete without Jay’s smile, Chuck’s legs, Gary’s hat, Shaw’s mustache and Don’s overall, Bear has a also released a dvd from the same live.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Charlie Thompson

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Charlie Thompson
Charlie Thompson – The Foothill Sessions

Charlie Thompson – The Foothill Sessions

Fairlane Records FCD001 [2015]
Going Like Wildfire – The Automobile Song – A Blue Million Tears – Boogie Blues – We’re Buggin’ Out – I Don’t Care – Let Me Love You Just A Little – So Long – You Tried to Ruin My Name – Ain’t Never Gonna Get Married Again – (We’ve Reached) The Beginning Of the End – I Miss You Already

Beautiful as a Faron Young ep on Capitol (perfectly designed by Chris Wilkinson of the Bonneville Barons and the Zazou Cowboys), here comes Charlie Thompson’s latest output. I believed this one had been recorded a while ago as I heard of these sessions from years now (which makes me feel less guilty for my belated review). It’s also a proof that Charlie didn’t want to release it until he finds it perfect and boy, IT IS PERFECT.
Helped by what could be best described as a dream team of musicians (Jeremy Wakefield on steel, Wally Hersom on bass, Dave Stuckey on rhythm guitar, drums and harmony, Carl Sonny Leyland on piano, TK Smith on guitar and Bobby Furgo on fiddle) and recorded by Wally Hersom at his Wallyphonic studio this platter not only looks but also sounds as if it came straight from the 50’s, a period when country music and honky tonky tonk still meant something.
To put it frankly, this is the best album of traditional country music I’ve heard in ages. Actually I can’t even remember having heard such a good mid-50’s honky tonk album played by a modern artist before. The songs choice (coming from the catalogues of Luke McDaniel, Carl Peterson, Webb Pierce, Jim Reeves, Moon Mullican, Pee Wee King and so on) is also very good mixing slow numbers with more rollicking and swinging stuff (it must be hard to resist with a band like this). And of course there’s Charlie’s voice, sounding like Faron Young, Dave Rich and Marty Robbins all rolled into one but in the same time sounding like none other than Charlie Thompson.
If by now you are not taken by a compelling need to buy it, we both have a problem: me as a reviewer and you with your musical tastes.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Starline Rhythm Boys

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starlinerhythmboys_liveThe Starline Rhythm Boys – Live At Charlie-O’s

Cow Island CIM011 [2008]
Yellow Jacket / A Dime At A Time / Heartbreak Tennessee / Charlie-O’s / On The Back Row / Life Begins At 4 O’Clock / Wine Me Up / Lonesome On’ry And Mean / Pipeliner Blues / You’re Still On My Mind / One Foot In The Honky Tonk / She Don’t Live Here No More / Dark Hollow / Live And Let Live / Get A Little Goner / Drunk Tank / Playboy / You Can’t Catch Me / That’s Where I Went Wrong / I’m A Lonesome Fugitive / Gotta Travel On / Too Much Fun / Drink Up And Go Home.

The Starline Rhythm Boys – Masquerade For A Heartache

starlienrhythm boys masqueradeCow Island CIM014 [2009]
Masquerade For Heartache / Jive After Five / Trucker From Tennessee / Workin’ Man Blues / Honky Tonk Gal / Red’s Place / A Mess Of Blues / Goodbye Train / I’m Fed Up Drinking Here / Ubangi Stomp

Here’s the cure to the stress of your everyday life and your summertime blues: the hot rockin’ honky tonk swing style of a Starline Rhythm Boys show in your living room! Recorded live at their homebase of Charlie-O’s bar, it features a typical set of the trio mixing classics from Johnny Paycheck, Wayne Walker, Conway Twitty, Faron Young, Chuck Berry, Bill Kirchen… with a couple of band’s own (She Don’t Live Here, Drunk Tank, That’s Where I Went Wrong). Add the presence of Sean Mencher (High Noon) to produce an play second guitar on one track as well as Kevin Maul on steel (both lap and pedal) and you just have to put the cd in the player and let the fun begins.

Masquerade For A Heartache is the perfect companion to Charlie-O’s with 10 more tracks recorded during the same show. Once again it’s very well balanced between originals (Masquerade…, Red’s Place, I’m Fed Up Drinking Here) and covers of Carl Perkins, Merle Haggard, Elvis. This mini album goes from straight Honky Tonk to Rock’n’roll with a good dose of Rockabilly including one of the best version of Ubangi Stomp I’ve ever had the chance to listen to!

You can buy them separately but do yourself a favor and buy both.


the Starline Rhythm Boys - Red's Place
the Starline Rhythm Boys – Red’s Place

The Starline Rhythm Boys – Red’s Place

Cow Island Music CIM05
A Fighting Chance – No Gal Cooks Like Mine – Red’s Place – It’s Anyone’s Guess – (They’re) Cutting Back the Work Force – That’s Just A Thought – The Joke’s On You – Who – The Family Farm – Drunk Tank – Sin & Salvation – Burning A Hole In My Mind – The Old Filling Station – That’s Where I Went Wrong – I’m Fed Up Drinking Here – A Memory of Fred

The Starline Rhythm Boys are a drummerless trio (Danny Coane, acoustic guitar; “Big Al” Lemery, electric guitar; and Billy Bratcher, doghouse bass) that plays in the same league as High Noon (no wonder to find Sean Mencher on the production seat) and Wayne “The Train” Hancock (Billy Bratcher toured with him by the way). But they don’t stick to the trio format and bring a couple of guests to keep things varied and surprising, and most of all highly enjoyable.
Most of the songs are originals written by Bratcher.”A Fighting Chance” is a powerfull slap bass led hillbilly/proto rockabilly (what a guitar too) with harmony vocals. “No Gal Cooks Like Mine” features a fiddle in addition to the steel and praises the simple domestic joys. The title track has more of a late 50’s honky tonk feel with a bit of Buck Owens in it, still with great harmonies, and a superb piano part. Big Al Lemery is not only a wizard on the telecaster, he’s also a poignant singer and proves it on “It’s Anyone’s Guess” a slow number in the vein of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” with mandolin, fiddle, light snare and pedal steel. “They’re Cutting Back The Work Force” shows once again what a good songwriter Billy Bratcher is, able to write about booze or social issues ( I Got Kids to feed, but there’s no remorse, once they start cutting the work force“) with equal success. “That’s Just A Thought” is a beautiful little hillbilly bop ditty that looks toward the western swing side of things with each members of the horn section taking solos. They turn Jimmy martin’s bluegrass number “The Joke’s On You” into a uptempo rockabilly. Another cover is Little Walter’s “Who“, which becomes a “hillbilly-blues” (and reminds what High Noon did with “Crazy Mixed Up World” on their Texas Style 10″). “Family Farm” is a sad and beautiful waltz with bluegrass accents. Al Lemery wrote and sings “Drunk Tank” a nice hillbilly bop. The honky Tonk “Sin & Salvation“, on a well known theme, is another proof they never falls into facility. They bring modulation and unusual chords. Man that’s good ! Connie Smith’s “Burning A Hole InMy Mind” adds a welcome touch of 60’s country music.On “The Old Filling Station” with simple words (and a beautiful melody) Bratcher paints a melancholic picture (Do you remember when you never pumped your gas/And the man with the Star was a symbol of class). I really enjoyed “I’m Fed Up Drinking Here“, the best song George Jones never recorded. How can’t you love a band that plays right and sings “The Old Juke box that I leaned on/Was a rock for life’s hard knock but now it’s gone/When a man’s mind ain’t clear/ a lack of George Jones is severe“. The set ends with a sincere hommage to a friend of them, Fred, and you can feel both the love they have for him and the personnality of the man, even if you never met him.
Authenticity is not only a matter of music, it’s above all a state of mind. And this guys play genuine country music that speaks to your heart and your feet.
Thank you for that Boys !

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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